EAST RIVER —
Stopping the G-Girls on this night was no Snapp.
Whitney Browning scored three goals and assisted on two more, and Graham ran past Tazewell 7-0 in a non-district girls soccer match on Wednesday afternoon at East River Soccer Complex.
Graham attacked the Tazewell goal for much of the 80 minutes, providing plenty of action for Bulldogs’ goalkeeper Kate Snapp, who had plenty of saves, but couldn’t keep the G-Girls off the board.
“Kate played well, she really did, we had a few breakdowns,” Tazewell girls coach Jeremy Call said. “We were prepared to play, but we came up here today and we just have to chalk it up to a bad game, we had a tough time.”
Meanwhile, Tazewell’s lone shot of the first half sailed over the post on a free kick, and the only time Graham goalkeeper Karly Morgan touched the ball in the opening 40 minutes was on a free kick that was far from the goal with 16:15 on the clock.
By then the G-Girls already led 3-0, would add two more goals before the break, and two more in the second half to improve to 5-1 on the season.
“It was probably one of our better passing games so far this season,” Graham head coach Hank Furry said. “We talked about a balance of trying to play the long ball out of the back and passing on the offensive half of the field and I felt like we did a really good job passing on the offensive half of the field.”
Browning assisted on the first goal of the game by Jessi Lewis, and did the same on the third goal by Kali Furry. The senior, who will join Furry with the Bluefield College women’s team in the fall, scored the final two goals of the opening half, and then scored the first goal after the break.
“We are beginning to exploit her abilities more and more,” Hank Furry said. “We began starting her out in the back or on the outside (midfield) and eventually moved her into striker and we are starting to find a rhythm as far as scoring.”
Tazewell (2-2) was finally able to get a few opportunities deep in Graham territory in the second half, but gave little work for Morgan or back-up goalkeeper McKenzie Meade.
“Taking nothing away from them, they played a great ball game, but I think today we didn’t play to our potential,” Call said. “We are much better than we exhibited today.”
It wasn’t just the Graham offense. The defense, led by Kali Furry, Kelsey Gibberson, Dawnna Metcalfe, Liz Workman and the return of Carolyn Springman, kept the ball from penetrating far past midfield, and the G-Girls took advantage on offense, sprinting down the field, kicking the ball forward and then outrunning the Bulldogs to the goal.
“That defense is starting to come...,” Furry said. “Between (Kali), Dawn and Kelsey, it makes it very hard for teams to get the ball around. In soccer you want to spread the team on the opposite side and then cross the ball back across the middle.
“We kind of entice you to do that and then Kali is really, really fast and she understands the role so she drops or plays the ball out of the back. All the years she has played with (former G-Girls’ standout) Kaylan Stanley, it is just awesome to watch them play.
“A lot of teams begin the season by building the team from the front backwards, we start at the back and work our team forwards.”
Graham scored 7:52 into the game when Browning was able to pass the ball to Lewis, who slipped the ball past Snapp. That was followed seven minutes later when Furry got the ball to Caroline Kelley, who used nifty footwork to elude coverage and then slapped the ball in the back of the net, exactly the way it was practiced the day before.
“Yesterday we worked really hard on dropping the ball back to the outside mids and it paid off today,” Furry said. “One of our outside mids — Caroline Kelley — beat one of their defenders and ended up getting a goal.
“That was practice, the girls got to see what we do at practice gets executed in the game and the results turn out the way we need them to.”
Graham scored again just four minutes later when Browning made a nifty crossing pass in front of the net that was scored by Furry.
That lead grew to 5-0 at the break on a pair of goals in a span of two minutes by Browning, one off an assist by Kaleigh Compton and the other by intercepting a free kick and kicking it into the net.
“That has been one of the things I was concerned about this year,” Furry said. “I knew we would score, but how would we rotate where certain games we could either ramp up our scoring opportunities or get into a better spread with the ball and get scoring from our outside mids.”
Tazewell, led by Haley Christian, Kaley Holloway, Taylor Catron and Samantha Altizer, did challenge in the second half, but could never score, while Browning and Morgan Whisman added the final goals of the game.
“I am proud of them, they didn’t hang their heads,” said Call, whose Bulldogs open Southwest District play on Friday by hosting Richlands. “They just kept going to the end of the game, but I hope we can just put this behind us tonight. That is what I told them, put it behind you, we have to start district play on Friday.”
Neither team has played much because of weather issues, but both teams will pick up the schedule in the coming weeks.
“We want to play a ton because the more we play the better we are going to get,” said Furry, whose G-Girls will play Providence Academy from Tennessee and Giles next week. “We are excited because Providence Academy is supposed to have a really good team so I am hoping we will get an opportunity to see some teams that will really put us on our heels and really test us.”
The same goes for Tazewell, which will follow up Friday’s game with Richlands by playing Marion and Carroll County on tap next week.
“Four games is not a lot, the weather has been bad, we didn’t even get to scrimmage so we jumped right into the fire,” Call said. “We are still filling out positions and feeling out what to do and where to go.”
Graham, which reached the Group A state championship game last season, is looking for similar or even better success ahead, and Furry is beginning to see positive signs on the pitch.
“The team is starting to believe that we have got an opportunity to do some things, they are starting to buy into the system, “Furry said. “We played a lot of girls tonight a lot more minutes and getting those girls up to speed is going to be big down in the season.
“Right now they are excited because they know they are playing pretty good soccer.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
G-Girls run past Lady Bulldogs on the pitch 7-nil
EAST RIVER —
Stopping the G-Girls on this night was no Snapp.
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